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Your 10-minute guide to Experiential Marketing

By definition, Experiential Marketing is strategically managing the entire customer experience with a product or a company. But why should an organization go the experiential way rather than traditional forms of advertising?

One, experiential marketing helps you build more of a one-to-one relationship with your clients allowing a more emotional connection. EM allows you the opportunity of appealing to your customer’s senses of touch, feel, smell, sound, etc. In short Experiential Marketing cuts out the noise and allows us to convey our brand experience in ways traditional marketing can not.

Yep Sarthi, sounds great, but how can I use experiential marketing for my brand?

The first thing you need for that is to figure out your key brand attributes. What does my brand stand for? What do I want it to convey? What do people think when they see my logo? What do I want them to think instead? This step is important because you can't really communicate until you have a message to convey. Right?

This could mean different things to different organizations. For instance, Nike stands for ‘sports for everyone’. For instance, while Coca-Cola stands for ‘Happiness’, 7Up may want to position itself as the ‘UnCola’. Whatever your message is, You need to make sure it is clear, concise, and ‘cuts through’ the noise.

As Marketing Guru Seth Godin puts it, “if you do not have a positioning statement in 8 words then you don't have a positioning statement”

After you are done figuring out the key attributes that you want to convey, the next thing you want to do is to brainstorm and ideate ways in which you can communicate your brand’s message. Ask yourselves the following questions. How do my customers interact with my organization? What problem does my product solve? How can I demonstrate that in the best possible way? How can I showcase the great experiences that we deliver in the best possible way?

For instance, if you are a travel company specializing in South Asian Destinations, organize a fair which shows the cultures of some South Asian countries, maybe collaborate with a restaurant and sample different Asian cuisines. Add a Call To Action like a signup table. And voila! You have an experiential marketing event. AIESEC does a great job at organizing ‘global villages’ like these-

If you are an organization that sells beauty products, organize a product trial event with models & mannequins, and distribute testers and samples. Collect a database of your potential customers, and engage and nurture them till you get sales. Doesn’t sound so difficult, does it?

While expanding operations in India, Uber exemplified experience marketing excellently(The E-Alliteration wasn't on purpose). By installing Wi-Fi-powered booths outside events and bars, they got new users to sign up for Uber, and get a free ride home while giving them a great first touchpoint with the Uber brand. Apple stores allow visitors to try hands-on what their products look and feel like.

Getting your product in hand/in mind is key.

Nike too devised a novel way to deliver such brand experiences. In advocating their values of ‘Sport for everyone’ a lot of new Nike stores have indoor soccer and basketball courts. Yes, that’s a mini-playing field, in a store! (I can play soccer while Mama does groceries!!!) Can you think of a better way to engage customers and let them personally engage with your brand? I can’t.

In the year 2013, In the midst of border skirmishes and tensions between the two Asian neighbors, Coca-Cola installed kiosks/vending machines to connect Indian and Pakistani Coke customers. Have a look-

In doing so, Coca-Cola connected its customers to one of its key brand attributes ’Happiness’ while addressing a major socio-political issue in India & Pakistan. Almost always brings a tear to my eye :’).

Often experiential branding can mean the smallest of things like wine and cheese tasting, setting up display booths, etc. But depending on the nature of your product/service it can also mean elaborate corporate dinners, Test rides, and networking events. As a marketer, you need to keep evaluating if your brand experience is being communicated in the best possible way or not.

One thing that can be said about experiential marketing is that it can be really fun! The possibilities are endless and don’t always involve a huge marketing budget. As a marketer, the onus is on you to come up with exciting ways to communicate your brand to prospects.

A thing that needs to be kept in mind is that experiential marketing is just a way of Promotions. And that is just one ‘P’ of the marketing mix. If your other ‘P’s, say your product is not up to the mark and you and your team are not really delivering the goods in the market, Your marketing efforts would, of course, fall flat, to say the least. Use tools like Customer Experience Mapping to evaluate how your customer touchpoints are performing.

To re-iterate here are some things you need to ask-

1) What does my brand stand for?

2) How can I replicate & convey these attributes in the best possible way to my customers?

3) Am I conveying my product/brand experience in a simplified yet memorable way?

4) Is there room for two-way interaction in my marketing event?

And BOOM! You are ready to experientially brand your product/service.

Bonus Video- Coke’s James Bond Campaign

The purpose of this article is to introduce you to experiential branding and some case practices from around the world. Feel free to share examples of your favorite campaigns with marketers around you!


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